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Learn All About the Spanish Cardinal Numbers

Numbers in Spanish or any other language are not limited to mathematical contexts and operations. They are part of everyday communication. 

Cardinal numbers, or cardinals, indicate quantities (one, two, etc.), whereas ordinal numbers express order (first, second, and so on). Today we will show you how to correctly use cardinals in your Spanish sentences.


Counting up in Spanish

First, let’s take a look at the table below:

NumbersSpanish Spelling
1-10uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez
11-19once, doce, trece, catorce, quince, dieciséis, diecisiete, dieciocho, diecinueve
21-29veintiuno, veintidós, veintitrés, veinticuatro, veinticinco, veintiséis, veintisiete, veintiocho, veintinueve
Multiples of 10 (20-100)veinte, treinta, cuarenta, cincuenta, sesenta, setenta, ochenta, noventa, cien (ciento when followed by another number) 
Multiples of 100 (200-1000)doscientos, trescientos, cuatrocientos, quinientos, seiscientos, setecientos, ochocientos, novecientos, mil

Note how we write numbers made up of two other numbers. We normally write 16 through 29 as one word, and 31 up to 99 as two words.

We usually spell multiples of 100 as one word by adding the multiple number before cientos. The exceptions to this pattern are quinientos (from cinco), setecientos (from siete), and novecientos (from nueve).


Cardinals often function as adjectives

Cardinal numbers commonly function as adjectives in a sentence. In this case, they go before the noun they are referring to. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Tip: Click on any of the linked sentences in this article (while on a mobile) to add them directly to your Fluent Forever app, so you can study them later. Don’t have our app yet? Download it here!

A crown made of pearls sticks out of a cork wall
Can you count the pearls on this crown in Spanish?
Image by Bronisław Dróżka from Pixabay

In the above sentences, the numbers cincuenta (fifty) and cien (one hundred) are located before the nouns lápices (pencils) and perlas (pearls), respectively.


Using cardinal numbers as pronouns

In certain contexts, cardinal numbers can act as pronouns. In such cases, they replace a previously mentioned noun in a sentence or conversation.

In these two examples, diez (ten) and tres (three) refer to a specific number of niños (children) and maestros (teachers), respectively. Here the cardinals serve as pronouns, eliminating the need to repeat the said nouns.


When numbers act as nouns 

Another common use of cardinal numbers in Spanish is to talk about numbers specifically. Take a look at the following sentence:

In this case, un…cien acts as a noun since it refers to the actual number that the girl drew in the dream.

And that’s how you use cardinal numbers in Spanish. Ready to start counting?


Written by Isabel Matos

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